For the latest installment of our "Tell Us Something Good" celebrity recommendation series, we talked to Linda Derschang, CEO of the Derschang Group and its beloved cafes, restaurants, and bars (think Oddfellows, King’s Hardware, and Linda’s Tavern). She shared her favorite reads from the past year, the best places to get takeout (like Dino’s Tomato Pie), some of the online events she recommends (like Quarantine Book Club), and more.
What has it been like heading a hospitality business during COVID?
Honestly, the first six months were hell. I don’t have business partners, so I had to make many hard decisions on my own, for my company and my personal finances. It left me feeling very alone, scared, and so, so stressed out. Laying off 90 people last spring was one of the worst days of my career. And then later, many people didn’t want to come back. I’m so, so grateful to those that stayed and the ones that returned. True stars. You really see who shines and has grit going through something like this. I feel blessed to have the people around me that are still with us. Also, I hope to never go through the legal issues with landlords and the money stresses the past year brought again. A couple of my landlords were generous and understanding, though. I’ll always be grateful for that.
What are your favorite restaurants right now? What do you like to cook at home?
I’ve never used Grubhub or Caviar or Uber Eats, so my takeout has been limited. I also hate to drive, especially at night, which is also limiting. I’ve mainly cooked simple dishes: brown rice hippie bowls, salads, pasta. I did get a delivery from Frankie & Jo’s early on. Three pints, all gone in less than a week! I decided it was too risky to get more, although I love their ice cream. My buddy Rachel [of Rachel’s Ginger Beer] sent me ginger beer & rum, and Robin from Hello Robin gave me some cookie dough so I’ve had plenty of goodies throughout. I love the frozen pizzas from Good Luck Bread, Dino’s Tomato Pie and Yalla are amazing, and I love the Burgermaster drive-ups. Their look is out of another decade (1960s?) but the meat is grass-fed and hormone-free. I love the dichotomy of their retro style and the modern awareness of their products.
Do you have other favorite local businesses or shops?
Unfortunately, some of my favorites have closed. It’s heartbreaking. Totokaelo and Baby & Co were the saddest. I still stop in Elliott Bay Book Company regularly, but honestly, besides books, I’ve barely shopped. This year was about selling off things for me. My condo, a car, furniture. It felt great in a weird way. I’ve simplified my life on one hand. But I bought a funky little house in the Yucatan, which has complicated things. I’m designing an addition and overseeing the remodel, but the architect I’m working with only speaks Spanish and Mayan. I don’t happen to speak either. There’s this handy thing called Google Translate, though. And I’m finally beginning to understand designing in meters.
What about movies and TV? What have you been watching?
The Queen’s Gambit, The Walking Dead (yup, I LOVE it), a few movies—but I’m not a big TV or movie person. I love to read. I’ve been attending Christopher Frizzelle's Silent Reading Party all year. It’s on Zoom every Wednesday night. Last week, I was a little tired, plus I was sipping wine with my dog Jack on my lap, and I fell asleep. I woke up with my mouth open and was mortified. If anyone noticed, I hope they had a good laugh. I’ve also taken a couple of Christopher’s Book Club classes. They are fantastic. I read Beloved and Giovanni’s Room in the class. I just signed up for Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Music and/or podcasts?
TONS of political podcasts like The Daily, Can He Do That?, The New Abnormal, Trumpcast, The Argument, The Rabbit Hole Podcast, The Business of Fashion, How I Built This with Guy Raz, A Hotel Life, and Design Matters with Debbie Millman. I walk a lot, so podcasts have been a big part of my life this year. I've been listening to the political podcasts a bit less since the end of January. It feels really good to not feel compelled to listen to them daily and read the news as compulsively as I have for the last four years.
What other books have you been reading?
The best part of the last year has been more time to read. Here’s a partial list of books I’ve enjoyed, starting with fiction: Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, 1984, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, three or four Jo Nesbo books, The Vanishing Half, The End of October, Then She Was Gone, In the Woods, The Witch Elm, The City of Fire, The Singer’s Gun, The City in the Middle of the Night.
For nonfiction, I liked The Great Influenza, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy, Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Emily Hahn, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, So You Want to Talk about Race, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age, and The Lie That Binds.
Do you have a favorite quarantine purchase? Something that makes your life better?
I bought a Peloton in June. It’s $100 a month and well worth it. I had heart surgery a couple years ago so I think this was a very good investment in my future.
Do you have a favorite spot to go for a walk?
What do you miss most about Seattle from pre-COVID?
Seeing friends (although I have had a wonderful pod throughout this), dining out, and Dance Church.
What are you looking forward to most when this is all over?
Travel, travel, and more travel.